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Aug 09 2016

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Help Your Clients Make the Most of Entertaining Outdoors


Coyote’s Asado Smoker

Warmer weather signals the perfect time to take the art of entertaining into the great outdoors. Long gone are the days where a grill, a folding table and chairs constituted a patio. Today’s outdoor spaces are viewed as extensions of our existing living spaces. The experts at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery offer tips to turn your clients’ outdoor space into an alfresco culinary oasis with these thoughtful enhancements.

Grill Marks
Whether built-in or freestanding, the grill is the focal point of every outdoor kitchen. Start with high-quality construction and features that make the cooking experience easier. When selecting a heating element, the choice of a gas versus charcoal grill ultimately comes down to taste versus convenience. Fans of charcoal and wood grills claim to appreciate more flavorful results. Gas grill advocates prefer the convenience and easy maintenance of propane. Or your clients can have it all with a grill that allows them to cook over an open flame, sear on electric grates and smoke-in natural flavors. Above all, don’t isolate the cook! Keep the location of the grill close to the entertainment.

Patio-Perfect Entertaining
Preparation is key for flawless entertaining, so prepare your clients’ outdoor kitchens with practical features. Think through the features of the primary kitchen and bring those elements outdoors. Functional additions like a side burner and warming drawer will provide more space to cook, keep prepared food warm and minimize extra trips in and out of the house. They can serve ice-cold beverages straight from an integrated refrigerator and ice machine. A built-in trash chute will help minimize insects, while a weather-rated sink and pullout bar faucet allows for quick rinsing of meats, fruits and veggies on the spot.

Light It Up
Once the grill and functional additions are selected, make sure the space is well lit for nighttime entertaining. Place task lighting above cooking stations to prepare food. A decorative chandelier, ambient wall sconces and freestanding lanterns can be used to create the perfect ambience for sitting and dining areas, as well as points of entry. Consider accent lighting to illuminate trees, wash walls and light pathways and trails.

Today’s outdoor kitchens are an extension of the indoors.

– Content and photo provided by Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery

Jul 28 2016

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It’s All There in Black and White

Photo from Fabric.com

Photo from Fabric.com

As an interior designer, I’m constantly being asked to write about what the current design trends are. “Trend” meaning what’s popular right now, what people are drawn to – just like fashion, I suppose. Trends come and go, and I’d like to forget a lot of them from years gone by, like Tuscan design. Or in the fashion sense, gaucho pants.

But trends are important. It’s how we run our businesses, based on current styles and preferences. Where do they come from? What starts a new trend? In my opinion, I believe it’s all tied in with what’s going on in the outside world. For example, post-war 1950s was a time of relief, comfort and new beginnings. With that came bright, happy colors that conveyed the optimistic mood of the time (above).

I recently discovered that Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year for 2016 is for all intents and purposes, not really a color. “Simply White” OC-117 is a creamy off-white tint. I won’t get in too deep as to the whys and wherefores of what this means, but given the chaos of the current world climate, it’s pretty obvious to me that we are seeking calm and needing a breath of fresh air (and neutrality) in our somewhat unsettling lives.

simplywhite_OC-117simplywhite_OC-117 simplywhite_OC-117

Photo from Benjamin Moore

But isn’t an off-white color a little boring? Not necessarily. Using this soft neutral as a background and adding layers of texture and contrast, “Simply White” becomes anything but. As designers, it’s our job to take this everyday mundane color and bring it to another level. By adding layers of texture and graphic punch, this otherwise bland color becomes the background to a stunning design.

Simply White Interior

Photo from Benjamin Moore

Adding graphic contrast by using black patterns with white has been a trend in Europe for some time now. This great looking floor tile from MEROLA is a good example of how to add an up-to-date look to a classic black-and-white theme.

Photo from Merola Tile

Photo from Merola Tile

Even inexpensive subway tile can be used as a background for a great shelf detail in a kitchen. By using contrasting gray grout, adding graphic punch with brass shelf brackets and bringing in texture with simple black shelving can turn mundane into magnificent!

Photo from Rejuvenation.com

Photo from Rejuvenation.com

So I’m good with “Simply White” for now. Simple is good, and we could all use a little simplicity right now.

Jul 11 2016

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Small Kitchen Changes For Visual Results

Symes Kitchen - AFTER

Mix and match countertops to add visual texture.
Kitchen by Arch-Interiors Design Group Inc.

Although my clients in Beverly Hills typically have big budgets to go along with their big home renovations, I was recently interviewed by Lou Manfredini of WGN Radio in Chicago on what more budget-conscious homeowners can do to incorporate some of the luxury-inspired trends into their own kitchens. This includes some small things you can suggest to your clients to make a really big impact and freshen up the kitchen.

Here are some of my top tips I discussed with Lou on kitchens:

• Upgrade Lighting. This can include replacing existing ceiling-mounted fixtures or chandeliers for a quick update that adds a piece of “jewelry” to a room; retrofitting existing incandescent downlights with new LED fixtures to save money and eliminate oversized, dated can lights; and always install dimmers to control the mood in any space.


Upgraded lighting adds “jewelry” to the room.
Photo courtesy of Arch-Interiors Design Group Inc.

• Alleviate “Stainless Steel Fatigue.” A quick update would be to cover stainless steel appliances with matching cabinetry panels to create a cleaner look that also makes the room feel larger.

• Mix and Match Countertops. Natural stone is always popular, but quartz and solid surface products are a nearly bulletproof alternative. We very often design using both, choosing one material for the perimeter and another for an island to create a visual texture to the space.

• Create Art on Vinyl. For several of my commercial projects, I created murals by producing images on vinyl. Homeowners can select their favorite high-resolution images and produce them as a piece of art in their desired size and color; then update drapes, towels or rugs to complement the new color.


Murals made from vinyl serve as a stunning focal point.
Photo courtesy of Arch-Interiors Design Group Inc.

• Update Kitchen Cabinetry. There’s a definite trend toward open shelving in the kitchen. This is a look you can easily achieve for your clients by removing existing cabinet doors. Paint is another easy way to create an instant upgrade for cabinetry. While some hesitate to paint over wood cabinets, it is a very affordable way to create a fresh look – especially if the wood stain is extremely dated – and changing cabinetry door hardware is always an easy yet fresh change.

– By Christopher Grubb

Jun 08 2016

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Welcome to My Friend’s House

I visited a couple’s house last week that is always truly a work in progress, and they are always making progress. They moved into the large home a few years back with a plan to renovate various rooms and spaces along the way.

Barn Doors

When I first visited them, a group of us had dinner on the second basement level – yes the basement is two levels – and it was a blank slate with a few paint colors splashed on one wall so they could decide the perfect hue. The room is still in flux, but my friend’s husband and his dad installed cedar barn doors to separate that space from a small bedroom. The barn track used to hold the doors is from a family farm in Indiana during the 1800s.


One the basement bathrooms, which are both finished, features an Italian marble vessel sink with a live-edge walnut base from a woodworker in North Carolina. A teak wood insert (below) in the shower hides a concealed oversize drain, which prevents clogging.


I love all of the small, well-thought-out details as well, which include various light fixtures, decorative grates and a metal wallcovering – just for something different (below).


The laundry room even features personal touches with a floor mat and a light and dark clothing separator.

Laundry Room

While her husband was out of town one weekend, my friend did the tile applique in the powder room on the main floor – and it looks perfect! I can’t wait to see what’s in store the next time I visit my friends’ awesome abode.